City Officials Address Complaints at Bronx Milbank Buildings

New York City officials say they're taking steps to address poor living conditions at 10 Bronx buildings known as the Milbank portfolio. The city says the buildings have a total of  3,577 open housing code violations. Common complaints include mold, peeling paint and collapsing ceilings.

The Milbank portfolio is currently controlled by LNR Partners, Inc., a financial servicing firm, after the previous owner, Milbank Real Estate, defaulted on its loan. City officials say LNR is not making the necessary repairs to the buildings, and are planning to inspect all of them to document violations.

"We are not going to allow these conditions to continue to deteriorate," said Rafael Cestero, commissioner of the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development. "We are going to step in and make the repairs that are necessary to protect our citizens."

Cistero said HPD has already spent $80,000 on emergency repairs, which are then filed as liens on the property, over the past year. The city is also considering legal action. "We have a number of other options at our disposal," Cestero said. "But those are all dependent on really getting out into the buildings and understanding what the conditions are and documenting them." 

Cistero is working closely with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The two held a conference call on the Milbank portfolio on Wednesday. LNR is reportedly seeking to sell the property. "The combined work of the advocacy community, the neighborhood community, the council, the report that we worked with the advocates on, and now HPD doing work and starting to do the liens -- all of that -- creates kind of a straight jacket for LNR that they can't wiggle out of," Quinn said.

LNR did not respond to a request for comment.